Welcome to my first MODERN-RETRO COMICS REVIEW! What and why is a "MODERN-RETRO COMICS REVIEW"?
As an ongoing series of blogposts, this will quite simply be, new reviews of a contemporary comic book (or series) created in a style meant to evoke a simpler, and less corporate, time in the world of comics publishing. In more fan-friendly language, these are modern comics created today that attempt to recapture the feeling of comics from what we know as the Bronze, Silver, and Golden age of comics.
In 2005, DC Comics was in the midst of another corporate flog at the teat of the CRISIS cow with INFINITE CRISIS and all the cross-over marketing. That same year Marvel Comics was doing the same with their ever-reliable X-Men-related books with a corporate cross-over event called HOUSE OF M. Marvel also rebranded post-bankruptcy as Marvel Entertainment with an intention to produce their own theatrical films based on the comics properties they retained film licenses to and entered into a partnership with Paramount Pictures to co-finance and distribute the films. And in 2005, Image Comics still occasionally, but irregularly, published Big Bang Comics. That year Big Bang published a comic titled ROUND TABLE OF AMERICA: PERSONALITY CRISIS #1 and I positively reviewed it as part of the Talkback League of A$$Holes Comics Reviews. Rather than link to the legacy site, I've included that review after my current review. I refer you to that earlier review because it relates to the current comic I'm reviewing in a couple of ways: PERSONALITY CRISIS was a solid bronze-age style comic written by Pedro Angosto and the new comic I'm reviewing is also written by Pedro Angosto. Let us see how the 16 years have treated Angosto and his writing!
Which brings up to 2021 and . . .
|Wraparound Cover by Pablo Alcalde
Writer: Pedro Angosto
Artist: Pablo Alcalde
Publisher: Big Bang Comics
Big Bang Comics, a creator-owned imprint overseen and edited by Gary S. Carlson, first saw life through the small press company Caliber Press, then for a number of years Image published the imprint. And most recently Big Bang Comics publish their own imprint through IndyPlanet. The conceit and the charm of the Big Bang Universe is that even though it did not exist until 1994, it exploded into existence with an entire fictional publishing history dating back to the 1940s. Within this history, the vast pantheon of characters and heroes exist within a framework of style that evokes the real comics artists of the past as well as style and design of DC comics and Marvel comics. This melding of these various art and storytelling styles have resulted in 37 years now in which the Big Bang Universe has evolved into something much more than pastiches of Marvel and DC characters. The Big Bang Universe has become its own thing. If the entire history of super-hero comics as experienced through those of each era who were reading them at the time were Excalibur, Big Bang Comics is young Arthur, the last to pull the sword from that stone and lead the way for this modern insurgency of retro-comics independent publishing made possible by modern digital technology.
In BIG BANG ADVENTURES #8, writer Pedro Angosto and artist Pablo Alcalde do an amazing job capturing the feel of the 70s era of the Silver Age telling a story of Earth B's KNIGHTS OF JUSTICE, the team of heroes formed in the Golden Age of the 1940s. The roll call of heroes includes Dr. Weird (a Spectre-like character who, weirdly enough, first appeared in real-life comics history in a fanzine where it was eventually drawn by a young Jim Starlin), (Green Lantern-esque) The Beacon, The Badge (sort of an amalgam of Capt. America and The Guardian), Venus (a tip of the hat to Wonder Woman), Thunder Girl (a nod to Mary Marvel), and other familiar seeming characters.
|Variant Cover by Jorge Santamaria
Set in 1947, post-WWII, an assault on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. by the Alliance of Evil results in the successful abduction of Venus where she is made prisoner of Pluto, the God of the Dead. With Venus trapped in the Underworld, all love begins to vanish from Earth in dramatic fashion. The Knights of Justice set off to rescue Venus from the Underworld. Whether they succeed or not is for you to find out by reading the comic!
The writing is fun. Angosto captures each character's voice in ways that evoke the simplicity of earlier comics, but within the context of deeper emotional connection than was common in those days. This gives the comic a resonance that makes it feel relevant for today even when the setting and style is from a past era. Angosto incorporates many elements of Roman mythology, and especially those unique aspects of the Underworld mythology as the Knights face individual external challenges but also internal challenges as well in their quest to save Venus. As someone who spent a good portion of their childhood devouring books on the Greco-Roman myths, I enjoyed the hell out of Angosto's skill at incorporating the Knights into the many different aspects of those myths and telling a clear narrative with educational value and a moral point of view.
Simon Loko is the color artist for this comic and I want to compliment his work at adapting modern digital coloring and modern advancing printing production to capture the feel of the coloring style of older comics. The color art is not flat nor is it overly rendered, which creates a perfect blend of modern and retro. Solid lettering work by Adam Pruett as well. This is what artistic collaboration looks like!
To round out this comic, which I've already read 3 times, Angosto includes a text piece about how and why he returned to writing superhero comics and a pin-up section is included in the back with 11 contributions featuring various Big Bang Universe characters.
All-in-all, this is a pretty sweet 52-page comic book for $8.95 in print or $2.99 for a digital download. Click HERE to order directly from IndyPlanet.
*From Sept. 22, 2005*
ROUND TABLE OF AMERICA: PERSONALITY CRISIS #1
Writer: Pedro Angosto
Artist: Carlos Rodriguez (pencils)/Albert Puig (inker)
Publisher: Big Bang Comics (by way of Image)
This was the most satisfying comic bought this week and read by this grizzled, grumpy old comic book fan. What a joy to read. Seems like Big Bang Comics may be the only place where I can find modern super-heroes who still feel like the type of characters I grew up with. The more that the Avengers sit around a argue incessantly over who gets to kill the Scarlet Witch, the more that the JLA sit around and argue incessantly over whether to lobotomize somebody, the more that I have to read stories about heroes executing villains, the more I have to read and see the particular sex habits of super-heroes, the more I gravitate to Big Bang and their stable of respectable heroes.
Sitting back this week and reading THE ROUND TABLE OF AMERICA: PERSONALITY CRISIS, I felt like I was being reintroduced to old friends that, in fact, I've had very little exposure to. However, I’ve always liked them and supported the whole concept behind the company. In the same week that I trudged through the depressing JLA: CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE comic, the one with Zatanna on the cover, the love and enthusiasm between the covers of RTA: PERSONALITY CRISIS put DC's comic to shame. These are heroes through and through who know how to function as a team and as friends.
For the uninformed out there, the analogs for the Round Table of America characters goes a little like this: Ulti-Man (Superman), Thunder Girl (Shazam!), Beacon (Green Lantern), Blitz (Flash), Ms. Merlin (Zatanna), Knight Watchman (Batman), and Hummingbird (Atom/Hawkman). Each of these heroes function as certain heroic archetypes and in PERSONALITY CRISIS they each find themselves face to face with a Jungian archetypal nemesis based on their own private fears and desires. Ulti-Man comes face-to-face with Ultragirl the concept that the world is all illusory. The villain behind this grand series of battles is, of course, the Living Archetype.
Formerly Jungian psychiatrist Doctor Archeimedes E. Tipe, the Living Archetype uses a mystical wooden scepter that grants him the power to physically materialize archetypes. Here lies the endearing charm of Big Bang Comics, the illusion of 50 years worth of publishing history. When Thunder Girl's alter ego, Molly Wilson, searches the RTA's computer database to learn some background on the Living Archetype, we readers are given flashback glimpses into the RTA's past battles with the Living Archetype. Most likely these earlier stories have not yet been published but it doesn't matter. And they may never be published. But, it feels right. Reading a single RTA comic feels like you're joining a decades long history of continuity. But it's all just an inclusive game between the publishers and the readers. Personally, I'd love to get a chance to one day read a "reprint" of one of the adventures where the Living Archetype turned both the members of the RTA and the members of Earth B's Knights of Justice into toddlers -- by releasing their "inner child", natch.
This comic is a one-shot and I appreciated that. There was no "writing for the trade" here. There was no "set up" going on. There were no pages filled with a bunch of static heads talking. This comic had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is plot driven but distinctive in its characterization. Similar to the style of many a Gardner Fox-scripted JLA comic in the 60s, the reader is treated to a plot based on actual science -- in this case, the studies and teachings by Carl Jung about universal archetypes and the theory of the collective consciousness. But more than that, Angosto also advances the personal stories as well by his choices as to what archetypes each hero faced and how each hero dealt with it. Thunder Girl was the standout in this comic where we see just a glimpse of the power potential within her as well as an idea of where her story will ultimately end. There was no sense of campy winking at the reader as so often happens when modern superheroes are approached with a retro feel. This is a comic that is not embarrassed about the fact that it is about superheroes. The artwork was also very polished and professional. Carlos Rodriguez is at least as good as the guy drawing the high profile mini-series DAY OF VENGEANGE right now (Justiano?). I got no real sense that he was specifically trying to "ape" another artist in his stylings (as is common with a lot of Big Bang comics). He stands out on his own as a fine artist and storyteller and I actually appreciated the fact that he just stayed true to himself here.
This was a great superhero comic. Search it out and buy it. And for some reason I now have the urge welling up within me to cry out MAKE MINE BIG BANG!